So you want to start a food blog. (high five!) And an AWESOME one at that, right? Heck yes you do.
But starting a food blog can be extremely intimidating. I know – I was exactly in your shoes about 3 years ago, before I started Real Food with Dana. Truth be told, I knew in about 2011 that I wanted to start a blog, but it took me until the fall of 2014 to do it, because I didn’t know what I was doing or how I would go about doing it! I knew I wanted a platform to share recipes and my health journey, but had liiiiterally no idea how to go about starting a food blog, or any kind of blog/website, for that matter. Today we’re breaking it down, step-by-step, and I’ll show you HOW TO START A BLOG, making it as EASY AS POSSIBLE FOR YOU. At the beginning of the post, I’ll give you the short steps, and then go into the longer, step-by-step, screenshots-included, version of the short list.
Let’s doooo this THANG and get your blog rolling!
First things first. Step ZERO – BB (before blog): what the heck are you going to blog about?
So. Before you start a blog, you should obviously have something you want to blog ABOUT. Right? Is it recipes? Nutrition advice? Why you think pandas are the greatest freaking animal on the planet? Choose your niche – something you’re passionate about and something that has a seemingly infinite list of content you could come up with (like recipes! Or fashion. Or healthy living. So probably not just pandas. But who knows…).
Note: this can toootally change over the years as well. I started out as just a recipe blog, and now I’ve expanded to doing more healthy living stuff too – talking about nutrition and gut health, adrenal fatigue, natural skincare, crossfit and sports nutrition, etc. You grow, and your blog will grow with you.
NOW: Let’s get started on How to Start Your Kicka** Blog!
STEP 1: Choosing Your Blog’s Name & Buying a Domain Name
Cost: free to $20/year
Time to come up with a creative blog name, that speaks your brand and screams THIS IS ME…that no one has taken.
Step 2: Get yourself a trusted web host – your site’s home and maintenance team.
Cost: $3.95/month and up
You need a host (I use Bluehost) BEFORE you can get wordpress to work. WordPress is a website creation tool, whereas Bluehost is a hosting platform – it’s basically where your site lives on the internet, and the maintenance team that keeps your site running on the back end.
Step 3: Download WordPress.org
There’s a reason a huuuuge percentage of blogs in various niches use WordPress – it’s simply the best. Once you’ve downloaded Bluehost (your hosting provider), you’ll install WordPress VIA Bluehost, and get you on your merry blogging way!
Step 4: Choosing a Theme
Cost: free to $130
Time to fancy this ish up with a spiffy theme! This is site’s your paint job, and will determine how your site will look, feel, and the different ways you can customize it at a basic level.
Step 5: Download WordPress plugins to spiff it up
Cost: mostly free!
Time to spruce up your site with some cool functionality and custom looks – spoilers for your car, if you will. Here we’ll go into Plugins that will protect your site from spam, hackers, boost your Google reach, spiff up your site, and make recipe creation sooo easy.
Step 6: Let’s do the dang thing – start blogging!
Cost: work work work work work…LOVE. (and sometimes, blood, sweat, & tears) and fun!
Okay. So now that you’ve got the general idea, let’s dive right in step-by-step, on how we’re going to set up your blog. It’s about to get reaaaal nitty gritty in here, so put on your big girl/boy pants and let’s go.
Step 1: What’s My
Age Name Again? Choosing Your Blog’s Name & Buying a Domain Name
Cost: free to $20/year. Time to get creative. You need a name that no one has taken, one that speaks to the message you want to send out into the world! Choose a name that immediately evokes an image of what you want your brand to be. For example, I knew I wanted to blog about food and nutrition, and gluten-free, whole foods…thus Real Food with Dana, to add a face to the brand.
Come up with a list of your blog name ideas, and google each one of them to make sure they’re not taken (or there isn’t anything too, too close to it).You can also use a tool like BustAName to come up with some different word combinations for potential blog names! Example: Mine is realfoodwithdana.com (duh!). Try the domain name checker below to see if your idea is free (and ready for the taking!). If it is, you can go directly to purchase the available domain you want straight from here!
Step 2: Get yourself a trusted web host – aka where your site “lives” on the internet, and its’ maintenance team to boot.
Cost: $3.95/month and up. You need a host (I use Bluehost) BEFORE you can get wordpress to work. WordPress is a website creation tool, whereas Bluehost is a hosting platform – it’s basically where your site lives on the internet, and the maintenance team that keeps your site running on the back end. For beginner bloggers, Bluehost is #1. It’s inexpensive compared to many other hosting platforms, and really does a good job of keeping my site up. You’ll also get a free domain name when you sign up for Bluehost! Once your site starts getting some MASSIVE traffic, you may want to switch hosts to one that has a bigger bandwidth. But to start, and for the first couple of years? Bluehost is your go-to.
Pro tip: pay annually instead of monthly to save yourself some $$!
When you download Bluehost, their team will basically walk you through setting up your blog (use the live chat feature!), to help you install wordpress on your Bluehost server from your cPanel, and then you’re good to go!
HOW TO DOWNLOAD BLUEHOST
1.Navigate to the Bluehost home page and click the “get started now” button.
2. Register your domain name via Bluehost (it’s included in your hosting package – winning!). Enter your desired domain name under the “new domain” box and click on “next”. Already have a domain name? Type it into the “I have a domain name” field.
3. Enter yo deets. (Fill in all your personal account details).
4. Choose your hosting package. You’ll get the cheapest monthly rate by choosing the 36-month package, which you pay for up front – it seems a little intimidating at first, I know! But if you’re planning on investing in your business, this will save you money in the long run. And do you really think you’ll be successful at starting a blog in the first place if you only plan on doing it for 6 months? (spoiler alert: NO). There’s a $$ back guarantee if you’re not satisfied, so there’s no risk of losing your money, and you can also do the yearly package and reassess in 12 months.
Don’t worry about the other checkboxes here. We’ll talk about backing up your site later (I use Vaultpress and it has saved my butt countless times.)
5. Enter yo deets, part 2 – payment info. Check out the Terms of Service and Agreements, then check the box –> click SUBMIT. (ehrmahgerd it’s actually happening!)
6. YOU DID IT! Welcome to Bluehost. On this screen you’ll be given some options for extra add-ons – I don’t think they’re necessary. Click “No Thanks” to get to the next screen.
7. Now, you’ll need to create a password for your account. KEEP THIS SOMEWHERE SAFE, where you won’t lose it. I’d highly recommend creating some kind of space (journal, app, etc.) where you keep all your blog-related passwords.
8. Here you’ll create your Bluehost ACCOUNT/HOSTING password. Make sure it’s strong to help keep hackers out!
9. Next, let’s log in to your account for the first time! *does a little happy dance* Make sure you’ve selected “hosting login” (it’s highlighted in blue) on the left, and not “webmail login”.
10. BOOM. You’re in! This is your cPanel (control panel), your home screen/dashboard on Bluehost. You may see a screen pop up that says “Welcome to Bluehost!” with two options: 1) Get started with helpful resources (I can do it) or 2) Our team will help get you started (Do it for me) – but since I’m walking you through it, you can close the box. Next, we’ll move on to BIG STEP 3 of 6 – Installing WordPress.
Step 3: Download & Install WordPress.org via Bluehost – this is the body of your car.
If you’re serious about this “whole blogging thing”, there’s really only one way to go – WordPress. And pretty much any google search you do/any blogger you ask will tell you that.
WordPress is a website creation tool, and the most popular blogging platform for a reason – it’s freaking awesome. It’s very user-friendly, so even if you’re not super web-savvy, once you get the basics down, you’re good. Once you have Bluehost (your site’s home and maintenance team), you can start building the body of your car – that’s WordPress. You’re in the driver’s seat now, and WordPress helps you design the framework of the car you want, the way you want to design it.
To host your own site, with your own domain name (and no wordpress in the URL), you need the .ORG (paid) version of wordpress. Check out this article for the differences between wodpress.COM (free) vs. wordpress.ORG (paid). In short, if you ever plan on turning this shindig into a business, you should 100% get wordpress.ORG.
HOW TO DOWNLOAD WORDPRESS ON TO BLUEHOST
11. (numbers continued from above, so you don’t get confused!) From your Bluehost CPanel, click “Install WordPress.” This will take you to a WordPress Installation screen.
11. Click INSTALL on the WordPress Installation screen. Then, choose the domain you want to install wordpress to. For my site, it would be “realfoodwithdana.com”. In the field next to the domain (where it says “directory”, leave this blank if you want your site’s HOME PAGE to be the blog. If you want to have new blog posts go on a separate page, NOT the home page, I would recommend doing something like yoursitehere.com/blog.
12. Name your site, and create and admin username and password (more things to put in your blog password journal!) These are your WORDPRESS username and password, that you will use to log in to your wordpress site. Make sure the box that says “Automatically create a new database for this installation” is checked,
13. NAILED IT. Wahoo! Installation successful. Go check your email – you should have received something from “Mojo Marketplace” with all your WordPress login details: your website URL, WordPress admin login URL, and your WordPress login username. SAVE THIS EMAIL. Another thing to put in your passwords journal? YEP.
14. Click the link in your email to take you to the WordPress login. To log into your WordPress site, the general URL is: http://yourblognamehere.com/wp-admin/. It should look like the screen below – enter your WordPress login username and password.
15. BREATHE. You did it!! This is your WordPress Dashboard. Spend a little time poking around the different tabs. The main one you’ll need to get started is along the top bar “+New”, which allows you to create a new post asap!
You can customize your home screen on the WordPress Dashboard by clicking on “Screen Options” in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Here are the ones I have checked.
PRO TIP: On the left hand side menu, go to Settings –> Permalink Settings page, and change your permalink structure to “Post name”. Hit save. This means any new blog post you put up will have the URL structure (http://www.yourblognamehere.com/new-post-name/, as opposed to having a date, and not the new blog post name, in the URL.) NOW: time to spiff up your blog and make it look awesome!
A few quick notes: the POSTS tab will help you write and publish new blog posts, that show up on your blog’s home page. the PAGES tab will help you create static pages – these do NOT show up in your blog’s home page feed, but are used as “Menu items”. Think of these as things you want to stick around all the time – like an “About Me”, “Resources”, or “Work with Me” page.
Want a video that walks you through the whole WordPress dashboard? Here’s a great one.
Step 4: Themes – paint job time!
Cost: free to $130. Time to fancy this ish up with a spiffy theme! This is your paint job, and will determine how your site will look, feel, and the different ways you can customize it at a basic level. Goal: try not to get too overwhelmed. There are literally 10’s of THOUSANDS of wordpress themes out there. When you’re trying to pick a theme, consider a few things: how easy is it to customize? What are the SEO features? Is there built-in support if you need it? If you’re building a food blog, will it showcase your most important content (pictures and recipes) front and center?
PRO TIP: buy a premium WordPress theme. Sure, it’ll cost you a little more in the short term. BUT it will save you a TON OF WORK in the long run. If you know how to code websites, you can totally make up your own. If you don’t (like me)? This will save you time, money, energy, tears, and guarantee that you have a site that looks great and functions well. Plus, premium themes usually come with a built-in support system, so you can get help if you ever have a question.
Recommended Premium Theme: Studiopress framework from Genesis
Studiopress is a theme creator, like Elegant Themes or Woothemes, and every theme created by Studiopress uses the Genesis framework. It’s basically like a master theme that lives on top of your WordPress installation, complete with a totally customizable behind-the-scenes dashboard, allowing you to change almost every single nook and cranny of your site without changing ANY CODE. (forthewiiin). Genesis also has fantastic built-in SEO capabilities (more on this later, but SEO is Search Engine Optimization – basically how easy it is for people to find your site in a Google search).
Let me be clear: I’m no website designer. When I was starting my blog, I needed it to be EASY. I looooove the Studiopress framework from Genesis themes – they’re extremely interactive, seamless and easy to use, are extremely well designed and look super professional, plus they come with about 4 million tutorials on how to use them in case you get stuck (spoiler alert: they’re not that complicated).
You’ll also choose a child theme to further customize your site, without having to go into the website code (thank god). If you’re a food blogger, I HIGHLY recommend the child theme Foodie Pro theme from Shay Bocks (under the Genesis framework), as it has a built-in recipe index and is suuuper customizable. I know a ton of bloggers that use this theme, and you would have no idea if you didn’t know them behind the scenes – so you don’t need to worry about your site looking too similar to someone else’s. The Brunch theme by Shay Bocks, is also very popular with food bloggers for its minimalist style and built-in recipe index.
You can play around with these themes, and try out the LIVE DEMO button under “Buy Theme and Framework” to poke around and see what you like or don’t like about each theme.
Recommended Child Themes: Foodie Pro by Shay Bocks OR Brunch by Shay Bocks
You’ll purchase the Genesis framework and a child theme together (you don’t have to pay for them separately!), and if you ever want to change your theme, you don’t have to buy Genesis all over again as long as you choose another theme within Studiopress.
I started with the Daily Dish theme, and after about 6 months realized that I needed something with a built-in recipe archives page, so that I didn’t have to manually update my recipe index every single time I put up a post. Foodie Pro DOES IT ALL FOR YOU. For the freaking wiiin. I haven’t touched my recipe index in probably two years and it updates automatically every time I put a post up.
Need help? here’s a video on how to install your Genesis themes. HERE’s one on how to Install ANY WordPress theme.
Step 5: Download WordPress plugins – bumper stickers, spoilers, and boosted speaker systems for your car, let’s gooo.
Cost: freeeeee! Time to add some gizmos and gadgets to your site via plugins. This helps your site run and look the way you want it to – protecting it from spam, making it easier for google to find you (SEO again), having a spiffy magazine-style slider at the top of your page (like on my homepage), having a newsletter signup and instagram profile in your sidebar, and creating a super easy way for you to enter recipes with your posts. Here are my top picks for plugins to get started with your blog!
- Akismet: the ultimate spam blocker. It makes sure no spammy comments get through to your blog!
- EasyRecipe: the recipe plugin I use. And it’s seriously so easy, even a caveman could do it. (ha, blog reference AND pop culture pun in one…) It’s also connected to Google’s recipe index, which makes it even easier for google to find your new posts and boost your traffic (better SEO, again!)
- TastyRecipes: The newest recipe plugin from food blogger extraordinaires Pinch of Yum. I’ve been with EasyRecipe for a while, but I plan on giving this one a whirl to test it out for you guys!
- Jetpack: This is a super simple plugin created by WordPress that has a TON of features. I’d first set up the Dashboard Site Stats (for traffic statistics), at least until you set up Google Analytics (more on that later!).
- Limit Login Attempts: More protection for your site against spammers and hackers. Limit Login Attempts (you guessed it) limits the number of times someone can try an incorrect password to log in to your site, similar to how iPhones will lock you out after 10 (i think?) incorrect password attempts.
- Vaultpress: BACK. YO. ISH. UP. It’s like health insurance for your blog – so just in case it crashes, for whatever reason, you don’t have to have a total meltdown thinking that you’ve lost all your work for the past X weeks/months/years. Cost: $5/month and totally worth it.
- YoastSEO: so now we’ve made your site and recipes easier to find by google, boosting your traffic, but what about each new blog post you put up? YoastSEO helps with that, giving you a stoplight-style SEO score (green = awesome, yellow = ok, red = NOPE).
HOW TO INSTALL PLUGINS: Go to your Dashboard → Plugins (in the left sidebar) → Add New. Search for your desired Plugin, click “Install Now”, and then activate it. Done! You can go in and adjust the settings for specific plugins, but for the ones above (aside from Vaultpress, for which you have to create an account), you’re all good!
Step 6: Let’s do the dang thing – start blogging!
Cost: “the hustle is free. Dream sold separately.” Don’t let perfection paralyze you. Just start writing! Don’t wait until it’s “perfect”. Don’t worry if you’re “only” taking and editing photos on your iPhone – that’s how I started, and then gradually graduated to using a DLSR camera. Plus, iPhone photos might totally turn out to be your style. You don’t know until you DO IT and figure it out. Sure, there will be plenty of road bumps along the way, but that’s how you learn and develop your own style.
Pro tip: Write your first post. About ANYTHING.
Just do the dang thing. Here’s my FIRST POST EVER: Pumpkin Pie Spiced Squash with Coconut Cream. Took it on my iPhone, wasn’t a fancy recipe at all, and I literally had no idea what to write about until I started writing. But I just DID THE DANG THING. And you can too.
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